The public should never feel in the dark

Published 12:05 am Thursday, June 4, 2015

In a standing-room-only meeting Tuesday, democracy was on full display in Vidalia City Hall, albeit perhaps a bit delayed.

Vidalia’s mayor and presumably a majority of the city’s aldermen seem to feel the city has been fully transparent in the handling of surplus royalties generated from the city’s participation in the Sidney A. Murray Jr. Hydroelectric Station during the past several years.

However, based on the number of residents who showed up for the Tuesday’s hearing, clearly residents feel differently.

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Part of the city’s ordinance overseeing hydroelectric funds suggests a definitive priority in which excess funds should be spent.

One of those priorities is a potential rebate to retail customers of electrical power in the City of Vidalia by using up to 50 percent of the surplus.

Since 2004, city aldermen have voted not to offer a rebate, even in years when a surplus existed.

City officials seem to suggest the lack of rebate was because of several factors including:

• The process of calculating the rebate would be difficult.

• The greatest bulk of the rebate money would go back to commercial electricity customers, not residential ones.

• Any rebate amounts would be relatively small and perhaps more costly to calculate and distribute than the rebate would actually provide.

A hired gun, bond attorney for the city told members of the Louisiana State Bond Commission last month that the hydroplant is budgeted to have a $3.8 million surplus this year. Half of that would be $1.9 million available for a rebate. That’s no chump change.

But aldermen apparently believe such money is best spent elsewhere. That may be true, but based on the number of curious faces in the crowd Tuesday, the public may feel differently or at least, have the perception that such decisions have been made with the public largely unaware.

The public should never feel in the dark.